Ballade Of Reading Bad Books

A poem by Richard Le Gallienne

O sad-eyed man who yonder sits,
Face in a book from morn till night,
Who, though the world should go to bits,
Pores on right through the waning light;
O is it sorrow or delight
That holds you, though the sun has set?
"I read," he said, "what these fools write,
Not to remember - but forget."

"Man drinks or gambles, woman knits,
To put their sorrow out of sight,
From folly unto folly flits
The weary mind, or wrong or right;
My melancholy taketh flight
Reading the worst books I can get,
The worst - yet best! such is my plight -
Not to remember - but forget."

"'Tis not alone the immortal wits,
The lords of language, pens of might,
Past masters of the word that fits
In their mosaic true and bright,
That aid us in our mortal fight,
And heal us of our wild regret,
But books that humbler pens indite,
Not to remember - but forget."

ENVOI

"O Prince, 'tis but the neophyte
Who scorns this humble novelette
You watch me reading, un-contrite -
Not to remember - but forget."

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